The Climate Change-friendly Smart Agriculture Box (SAB) innovation by the Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs (Dardlea) has won yet another prestigious continental award.
This box won first place at the 14th African Association for Public Administration and Management’s Innovative Management Award (IMA) held in Livingstone, Zambia, on Thursday December 7.
It competed against some deserving innovations from other African countries, outshone them, and the team brought home a trophy.
It previously won an award at the 2023 Centre for Public Service Innovation Awards during a gala event at the Emperor’s Palace in Kempton Park on November 24. The award was won under the Citizen-focused Innovation Harnessing Non-ICT Solutions category.
The Smart Agriculture Box innovation was also second runner-up in the Africa Public Service Day Awards held at the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe in June.
The IMA is a continent-wide award programme, designed to encourage, promote and recognise creativity and innovations in public sector institutions, organisations and ministries at national and local levels.
The department entered for these awards with its Smart Agriculture Box innovation, before it was selected as one of the six finalists from 57 nominations received. Some pre- and final interviews were held, and the Dardlea team impressed the panel with its presentations, scooping first prize over other countries, which included Egypt, Mauritius and Namibia.
The chief director, Dr Maanda Dagada, said before winning the first place in Zambia, they went to present the box before the jury three times. “The box is known by many people in this country and beyond; it is about climate change strategy. With this innovative box, we are saying that people can still produce food even in extreme climate conditions, when there is not enough land or water.
This includes even when they want to move from one place to another. This process is also called organic farming. When we presented the box there to the panel, they found it to be a very good innovation that deals with sustainable development goal 1 and 2, that is, no poverty and zero hunger. Everyone in Africa wants food,” he explained.
Dagada said they left one box in Lusaka, Zambia, and donated it to charity.
Dardlea’s MEC, Busisiwe Shiba, said, “This recognition is an indication that we are on the right track, doing something that impacts the lives of our ordinary people. We obviously did not come with the Smart Box idea to win awards, but with climate change being the centre of attention today, we had to come up with ways and means to sustain food security, and the box is proving to be a perfect initiative. And yes, we are happy that our innovation receives such recognition on the continental level.”
The department introduced the Smart Agriculture Box initiative as part of its farmers support programmes to alleviate poverty and unemployment within rural communities in Mpumalanga. The boxes are made from recycled polypropylene, suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. An efficient water user, the self-watering box uses the capillary action process for irrigation purposes. It is easy to assemble and to move, and it grows both vegetables and herbs.